Kansas City Chiefs

Are the Chiefs Better When They're Behind?

Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff (USA TODAY Sports)

You can’t win a Super Bowl in September, but getting that first one certainly does make a difference.

Going all the way back to 2005, the Chiefs have gone to the playoffs every season that they start 1-0. Unlike the Cleveland Browns football squads of 15 years ago, this year’s team came out of the offseason looking rather impressive after their 2020 campaign and proved to be a tough test for any team they matched up with to begin the year.

Fortunately for Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were able to sneak out of Week 1 with a victory against the Browns on Sunday, and by golly, was it a fun game to watch.

Early 4th down conversions, opening drive touchdowns, and sideline altercations leading to player ejections (a source of much debate in the social media world at the time) produced an exciting first half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Dawg Pound in Cleveland was feeling pretty good after going into halftime with the Browns sitting comfortably ahead by a double-digit margin, leading Kansas City, 22-10.

But unlike last year’s epic playoff game between the two AFC foes, the man who dons the No. 15 in white and red finished this game for Kansas City. And with a bang! Mahomes and Andy Reid led the Chiefs to yet another come-from-behind victory, and in a manner that has become expected entertainment from this team in late-game scenarios.

Putting the dramatics of comebacks aside for a moment, it seems to have reached the point where Mahomes and the Chiefs look almost comfortable while losing. Although they would not be the first team in NFL history to have a “Comeback Kid” kind of nature, they might be the best team currently while playing from behind, and simply because they have the best player in the game taking the snaps.

The Browns’ game plan was predictable but efficient. Ground-and-pound with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt was producing big yards early in drives, and Baker Mayfield was making good throws from play action to help march Cleveland down the field and into the red zone with ease.

Baker ended the first half by completing 13 of 17 passes (76.5%over 76%) and had 231 passing yards. The Browns scored on every one of their 1st half offensive possessions before they stalled at midfield with the schoolyard lateral play to end the half.

The run-game was scoring touchdowns, and the Cleveland defense kept the Chiefs almost entirely out of the end zone.

It was all Cleveland in Kansas City, going into halftime.

However, one clear separation between the two teams goes beyond the player matchups:  Coaching.

With no disrespect to Kevin Stefanski and the Browns staff, Andy Reid has earned the reputation as not only one of the best coaches in the league but one of the best at making adjustments and leading his team to big comebacks in the 2nd half of football games.

Since he took over as head coach of the Chiefs in 2013, Andy Reid now has 16 wins when trailing by at least 10 points in the game. And with the Chiefs completing the comeback on Sunday, Reid has still never lost to the Browns (9-0, including playoffs) as a head coach.

Therefore it should not be surprising that his demeanor and display of confidence while playing from behind has appeared to wear off on Mahomes.

Patty Mack now has 10 career wins when trailing by double-digits at any point in the game and now has a 22-4 (.846) record when the opposing team scores first. That is the highest winning percentage of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era.

The statistics look impressive, sure, but the formula of how this team operates may be more to credit than any one individual performance. Some are saying that the Chiefs have the only QB in the NFL who could even make that 75-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill.

While that may be true, it also helps to have one of the fastest humans alive just blazing right on by the secondary to receive that throw. And having Mecole Hardman run down the other bombs Mahomes heaves downfield. Having the game’s most dynamic “security blanket” gashing defenses up the middle and scoring easy TDs from the tight end position also helps.

In fact, Travis Kelce’s 6 catches for 76 yards on Sunday helped him move past Jason Witten for the most receiving yards by a TE in their first 9 seasons (7,909).

Meanwhile, the team is still trying to find its niche in the run game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Damien Williams form a solid duo, but the team is vastly more efficient with the ball in Mahomes’ hands than in their running backs.

A team with the lead needs to run out the clock, something the Chiefs struggle doing at the moment. If the run-game continues to be stagnant, the Kansas City Chiefs can become a one-dimensional team. As potent a passing attack the Chiefs can run out there on Sundays, game-planning becomes substantially easier for opposing defensive coordinators when you can easily dismiss a rushing attack.

Much like Rodgers in Lambeau and Brady in Tampa, this team’s identity will continue to be an explosive juggernaut on the offensive side of the ball; however long Mahomes is chucking pigskins in Kansas City.

“When we’re at Arrowhead, and that crowd is rolling, it gets the defense going and translates to the offense,” Mahomes said. “I’m just glad we found a way to win against a really good team.”

Don’t forget that in the pre-pandemic days of the 2020 Playoffs, the Kansas City Chiefs came back in every single postseason game they played in. From shrugging off the impossible 24-point deficit in the Divisional Round against Houston Texans to fighting back against the pesky Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game, all the way to the legendary comeback in the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers.

All comebacks when trailing by at least double-digits.

When this team is rolling, Pat Mahomes, Andy Reid, and Co. have certainly proven that by staying patient and having the ability to get fast scores, even if the Boys in Red are down, chances are they won’t be down for long.

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